Off Key! From a bitter Cabernet to Amazon’s union vote dismay

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Beware the waiter with expensive tastes

Model and television personality Chrissy Teigen tweeted recently about a waiter recommending a wine to go with the meal she and husband John Legend were sitting down to at a restaurant on a night out. According to Teigen “… the waiter recommended a ‘nice’ Cabernet. We got the bill and it was $13,000! HOW DO YOU CASUALLY RECOMMEND THAT WINE?” she tweeted. 

“We didn’t even finish it (before) it had been cleared!” she continued. 

Now Teigen got considerable blow-back online for “casually” tweeting about $13,000 bottles of wine during a time with so many struggling just to get by due to pandemic driven lockdowns and accompanying financial hardships. But that’s a story for another time. I’m sure she’ll survive, somehow, some way, despite her perceived victimization here. 

Anyway, it’s hard for me to conceive of any restaurant remotely concerned with its reputation allowing a waiter to make such a pricey recommendation without somehow tactfully working the price of the wine into the conversation, perhaps by suggesting the patron take a look at the establishment’s wine list? (Which presumably would include the price and a brief description of the wine the waiter recommended). That way, whomever is picking up the tab would be aware of the price up front, and so be able to make a different, less pricey selection while avoiding the embarrassment of (pick one):

A: coming off as a skinflint for asking the waiter directly for the recommended wines’ price in front of everyone seated at the table, and then asking for amore “modestly’ priced selection after hearing the $13,000 price tag of the waiter’s original choice

B: coming off as a lunatic after bursting out in hysterical laughter at the notion of paying that much for a table wine, causing a scene for everyone in the place to see and hear

C: revealing one’s true self by asking the waiter to skip the bottle and just bring a couple of glasses of Honky Red, while explaining to your date or guest how much you loved the stuff back during your days on skid row

But back to Teigen’s predicament … 

It’s possible the waiter was just looking for a big tip and figured this power couple was a suitable mark. If so, this was likely not the first time this individual had run this ruse, which might explain how someone described as a “waiter” — not a Sommelier or wine steward — would have the wherewithal and hence first-hand knowledge to know just which $13,000 bottle of wine would go best with a particular entrée. I mean it’s not likely the restaurant would break out bottles of wine this pricey for the waiters to sample.

Just saying.

Bern’s steakhouse in Tampa has a wine list renowned the world over. And it is also notable for being only slightly shorter than Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It includes an entry for “Gruaud-Larose, 1845.”  That’s the vintage, not the price, which is actually $49,000. So perhaps Teigen should be grateful her waiter didn’t have access to Bern’s wine cellar.

More Comings and Goings in Sarasota City Government

“The reason they fire you is the same reason they hired you.”

That’s a saying you often hear applied to individuals recently cut loose from high profile jobs in the public eye. It especially fits the group of newly minted ex-NFL coaches kicked to the curb every year around this time. But it applies equally well to all manner of individuals, especially those in leadership positions subject to everyday public scrutiny — city managers, politicians, even chiefs of police. 

Just ask now former Sarasota Chief of Police Bernadette DiPino, who landed the top-cop job here 12 years ago in large part because of her commitment to promoting a less adversarial, more community oriented public profile for the Sarasota Police Department. At the time, there had been a number of cases of alleged mistreatment of homeless individuals by SPD officers. Tensions were also strained between the department and many city residents living in the city’s historically black Newtown community.

DiPino promoted efforts to smooth out her new department’s rough edges; she initiated events like “coffee with a cop” and other community outreach events where citizens could interact with her officers on a personal level. Most would agree the department made considerable strides in reaching out to both the homeless and the city’s minority population during her watch.

But her tenure with the city came to an abrupt end earlier this year due to fallout from a comment she made during a public event for the benefit of the police department that was disrupted by a homeless man known to suffer from issues related to mental illness. 

That comment was clearly said in jest, and yes, just as clearly distasteful — something to the effect of the chief wishing she had a Taser to quiet the fellow’s distasteful outbursts. Her inappropriate comment was overheard by some of her officers, passed along to others, and finally widely reported by local media, most bitterly for her on the news and editorial pages of the Sarasota Herald Tribune. And with that, it was lights out for DiPino’s career in Sarasota, taken down by a boneheaded comment her detractors were easily able to use against her.

Still, it strikes me as yet another absurd example of how words have come to outweigh actions in today’s increasingly “woke” culture, when a clumsy, misplaced aside lasting a few seconds at a public event can overshadow a proven track record, years in the making, and one highlighted by improved treatment and respect for the city’s homeless population by SPD officers. 

DiPino apologized for her comments. No matter. It seems forgiveness — even among members of a local media which has lost much of its institutional memory of late with the retirements of thoughtful and fair observers like Barbara Peters Smith and Tom Tryon — is no longer universally prized. Where any potentially enlightening context that might be gleaned from looking to the past is canceled by a malignant preoccupation with the present.

“Do as we say, not as we do!”

​Amazon was all in for mail-in voting with the thinnest of identity fraud protections in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. The Washington Post too, which just so happens to be owned and operated by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. 

So of course, when it came time for a vote by nearly 6,000 Amazon employees working at a distribution warehouse outside Birmingham, Alabama on whether or not to approve union representation, the company was equally supportive of mail-in voting, right?

Wrong!The company objected vociferously.

But then consistency has never been the strong suit of an ever-broadening woke Silicon Valley cabal that delights in telling ordinary folks how things should work in today’s enlightened society while ignoring their own edicts when they run counter to their own interests.

California leads the way, again

A California judge has ruled in favor of prisoners claiming they are entitled to the same COVID-19 stimulus checks sent to other Americans not inconvenienced by the unfortunate circumstance of being locked up behind bars. Since a federal judge heard the case, the ruling applies not just to California prisoners, but also to all prisoners serving time nationwide.

The checks — which of course are paid for by you — were ostensibly authorized by Congress to help Americans pay the rent, make car payments and put food on the table. Obligations which you’d assume have already been reduced or even removed completely by the circumstance of being in prison.

But then, if you’re reading this you don’t live in California, where laws of nature and common sense are entirely beside the point.

Tampa Bay throws a party

Now we know the real reason Tom Brady decided to come to Tampa Bay: the post-Super Bowl victory parade. They’re much more fun here. Clear skies and 81-degree weather as the backdrop for a celebratory boat parade down Tampa’s Hillsborough River in February sure beats frozen sidewalks and a bitterly cold northeast wind blowing in off the inner harbor in downtown Boston. 

Who wouldn’t take that trade?

The celebration in downtown Tampa had an exuberance to it that reflected the sense of shared purpose the players brought to the Buccaneers’ entire 2020 campaign. The parade began at 1 p.m. and was supposed to be a one-hour affair, but ended up going into double overtime, stretching well past 4 p.m. 

At one point, speed merchant wide receiver Scotty Miller “fumbled” fellow receiver Chris Godwin’s phone, knocking it into the river after a botched handoff. At any other time, this would have been a major buzz kill. But on this day? No biggie.

Defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting shook off a blow to the head, tweeting:

“Got hit in the head with a Bud Light. Did it hurt? Ya … But hey, let’s go!”

The high point for me though was when the Buc’s man-child, anything-goes party animal Rob Gonkowski (a.k.a. “Gronk”) ran into Tampa Mayor Jane Castor as the parade was about to get underway and actually got “her honor” the mayor to down a shot with him and his buddies, though it should be noted the “shot” in this case was champagne, which the Gronk quaffed down from a plastic cup with the wild abandon that has become his trademark. For her part, Mayor Castor maintained the dignity of her station, demurely sipping hers from a fluted glass, while toasting Gronk and his mates.

But before boarding her own boat for the parade, Castor had some parting advice for the Gronk: “Please be careful with the Lombardi Trophy,” she said, adding, “We don’t want to see it end up in the river.”

To which Gronkowski replied: “Don’t worry, I’m not even going to touch it, mayor.”

Interestingly, up until that point he hadn’t.

Perhaps he was recalling the aftermath Super Bowl LIII, Gronkowski’s last season with the New England Patriots, after that team had won the big game. Apparently at one point he was using the trophy as a bat while teammate Julian Edelman was warming up for a ceremonial first pitch he was scheduled to make. Gronk made contact with one of Edelman’s pitches using his makeshift Lombardi Trophy “bat,” adding a dent to its surface, which remains to this day. So maybe the Gronk was worried about going down in NFL history as the only player to damage not one but two Lombardi Trophies. 

Yet despite his earlier reticence, despite Mayor Castor’s advice, there he was a few hours later, captured in a photo by Tampa Bay Times photographer Dirk Shadd, shirtless, smiling broadly and holding up the Lombardi trophy in one hand to the cheers of onlookers crowded along the parade route.

Some habits die hard. Like winning. 

Earlier, Brady had successfully tossed the trophy from his boat to Cameron Brate on the receiver’s vessel, over a good 15 feet of open water.

Again, no biggie.

I remember the late Don Shula once answering a question from a reporter about the secret to Dan Marino’s success as a quarterback. 

Without skipping a beat, Shula replied: “He’s not afraid to lose.”

The same would seem to apply to Brady and Gronk. With as many Lombardi Trophies as these two have won over the years they probably figure if this latest one ends up at the bottom of the Hillsborough River they can always win another.

NBC rains on Tampa’s parade

As fun as it was for Bucs fans, some people just can’t stand seeing others having a good time. Especially when politics are involved. So instead of the usual post-Super Bowl “puff piece” news segment reporting on the winning city’s parade for their team, this year NBC Evening News with Lester Holt used celebrations in Tampa for the Buccaneers as examples of Florida’s outlaw status with regard to protecting its citizens from COVID-19. 

Florida’s sin? 

Not opting for a total lockdown of businesses, especially bars and restaurants. Not closing churches. Not closing schools but instead mandating that all parents have the right to continue face-to-face learning for their children.

From the dripping sarcasm of most media reports on the state’s COVID-19 response, you’d think the state had morphed into a vast dystopian wasteland with folks tripping over each other to escape. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. More people than anyone would have expected are arriving from other parts of the nation, especially from the more restrictive states where harsher lockdowns have led to decimated local economies and higher mortality rates related to COVID-19 than here in Florida.

​All one has to do is type “worldometer” into a browser window and click on “coronavirus” at the top of the page after it loads. Scroll down until you see a list of countries. Click on USA and you’ll then see a list of states. Scroll down to New York and compare it to Florida. You’ll see that the sunshine state has more cases (which you’d expect with our larger population) but if you look at the eighth column over, labeled “Deaths/1M Pop,” you’ll find Florida’s mortality rate is 42% LOWER than New York’s: 1,322 deaths per million of population versus 2,346 per million for the Empire State. The comparison is even worse for New Jersey: 2,514 deaths per million. Connecticut shows 2,063. Michigan 1,604. 

​So how do these states and the media based within them get off throwing shade at Florida? 

​Easy. They see the state and its “unwoke” citizenry as a threat, especially since Florida went for Trump in the last election.  A threat to their economies. To their narrative of how best to confront the virus. But most of all to the political power they are desperately trying to consolidate. So, look for more “punishment” headed our way in the weeks and months ahead. The latest idea floated by the Biden administration as reported by the Miami Herald: Travel restrictions due to cases of the UK COVID-19 variant showing up in the state (no matter that they are at levels no higher than in California, which will of course gets a pass given its solidly “blue” status).

As Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said recently in answer to a question about why Florida would be singled out for travel restrictions:

“I think they’re embarrassed by what Florida has done. Florida has embarrassed California. Florida has embarrassed New York. It hosted a Super Bowl with actual people in the stands. Their predictions about Florida didn’t come true. (They) can’t let this stand. I honestly think there’s an element to this that involves punishment, I really do.” 

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